Asia

Fun in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

After two days in Phuket, it was time to go “Phi Phi!” We almost didn’t make it – we woke up late for our taxi ride to the ferry terminal! In the end, we still got there early, and we soon found out that ferries don’t leave on time here. At least we got to enjoy the view, wind in our faces, and the sunshine during the ferry ride. Even though Ko Phi Phi is supposed to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, daytime at the beach is amazing and unreal. For the rest of the day, my friends and I relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the ultra-clear water. I had to take two midterms in about one week, so I unfortunately had to (try to) read my finance textbook. But hey – at least I got a nice view, along with a nice tan!

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When the sun goes down, Ko Phi Phi becomes a whole new beast. A big, fiery beast. Many Thai beaches, especially those on Phi Phi, are known for their nightly fire shows. During such shows, performers twirl batons, pois, and other objects set on fire. Performers even work together to pull off a variety of stunts, like human pyramids and walking on tightropes. It’s a crazy sight and it’s even crazier knowing that this happens every. single. night.

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What also happens every night is the opportunity for spectators to become participants. We didn’t get to toss around fire batons, but we did get to participate in fire jumprope, fire limbo, and jump through a hoop of fire. Yes, this is real, and yes, countless people actually do it. I even saw a child jump through the hoop of fire! I tried the fire limbo and hoop because they involved stationary objects. I didn’t try the jumprope, as I was afraid of seriously burning myself. It all actually seemed fairly safe – in any case, the ocean is a short run away! At one point, a woman tried to jump out of the spinning jumprope and the rope ended up hitting her head and then pretty much wrapped around her stomach. My friends and I feared that she would catch on fire, but she seemed surprisingly unscathed after finally escaping! (The same couldn’t be said about her pride.)

On our last day, we hiked to Pee Pee Viewpoint to watch the sunrise. No more than a 30-minute hike up stairs and a hill, the view was much better than the area’s name may suggest. We had to get on a ferry back to Phuket in less than two hours, so this was a great way to end our trip to Ko Phi Phi.

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Motorbiking in Taiwan

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

On March 27th, a friend and I took a red-eye flight to Taipei, Taiwan. Arriving before 6 am, I quickly realized that we hadn’t done our research regarding the need for a visa. Being the (sometimes) worrywart that I am, I worried that we would end up on the next flight back to Singapore. It turns out that as American citizens, a visa isn’t needed! I liked Taiwan already!

We took a bus to Taipei (the airport is actually an hour away), ending up at the train station. After two hours on the train (playing “2048”), we were picked up from the Toroko station. We checked into Toroko Lodge, which I highly recommend! Relaxing for some time, we then went to rent scooters (gas-powered, not Razor scooters). This is when the adventure really started to take off…

Having never ridden a scooter before, I seriously thought my butt would scoot right off the scooter and onto the road. I almost ran over the guy who let us rent scooters in the first place… Equating riding a scooter with riding a bike, I zoomed onto the road hoping that it would become easier to balance. Well, what do you know… it worked! My friend and I quickly got the hang of our scooters and were well on our way to Toroko National Park.

There is NOTHING like driving through the park’s windy roads, with the wind in my face and a vast gorge as the backdrop. We sped through countless tunnels carved out of the mountainside, stopping every now and then to take some photos. At one point, we found an abandoned tunnel that reminded me of the one found in the film, “Spirited Away.” I sure was blown away, or should I say “spirited away,” by the experience! If there is one thing you take away from reading this blog post, it’s this: if you ever go to Taiwan, you HAVE to ride scooters in Toroko!

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What I’ve Learned After 1 Week in Singapore

Friday, February 21st, 2014

written by Jeremy Santos, Foster school undergraduate student

#1) I can drink, but I can’t watch “The Hangover.” Crazy, right?! Some friends and I planned to go to the movie theater today to see “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Back in the US, this movie is rated R, so anyone at least 17 years old can buy a ticket. But here, viewers have to be at least 21! Movie restrictions vary (some to 16, some to 18), so it was interesting to see that TWofWS is currently the only movie with this restriction. I’m speculating that the record number of swear words, along with a few controversial scenes, had something to do with it.

We just ate food instead.

We just ate food instead.

#2) I need a map. The spring semester began this week, and it has felt like freshman year all over again. There are people rushing in every direction; then there’s me, wandering around trying to find the stairwell. I’ve known that I have no idea where my classes are, but I just figured that I’ll eventually find the right classroom! Luckily, I’ve found fellow lost exchange students and helpful locals, so this week has still been fun. I’ll definitely find my own way around campus next week. I have an app on my always-on-airplane-mode smartphone (i.e. essentially a wifi device) that gives directions around the NUS campus, so I should probably start using it!

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#3) Class dynamics at NUS aren’t much different from UW. As I prepared for my 5-month study abroad experience, I heard that class dynamics in Asia as a whole are much different from in the US. I can’t speak for other countries, but courses at NUS could easily be mistaken for courses back home. In class, especially in smaller sections and tutorials (aka quiz sections), students are encouraged to ask questions and engage in class discussions. Grade breakdowns usually consist of multiple exams, projects, and class participation. And classrooms themselves are set up colosseum-style, with curved desks forming a half-circle facing the front of the room. With all of this in mind, it sounds like I’m back at Paccar Hall at UW. It also doesn’t help that courses here focus on American financial markets and Wal-Mart, just like at home.

On the other hand, the diverse student population creates a truly unique learning environment. I’ve met people from all over the world, along with students born and raised in the small but dense melting pot called Singapore. In my short time here, I’ve learned the Singlish word “kiasu,” which refers to the fear of missing out. This fear is a major aspect of Singaporean culture, and it can be seen everyday. People queue up to try popular foods (myself included), and in an academic context, students generally don’t want to miss out on class readings. Many courses require readings obtained from the library, which may have only a few copies. Because of the fear of missing out on testable readings, I saw students rush to the library to start studying on the very first day of the semester. While others begin poring through textbooks, I’m still trying to figure out where the bookstore is! Despite the competitive environment here at NUS, I’m not too worried about my classes. Most students are taking classes only in their major, but I’m also taking two non-business modules that don’t seem too difficult. I’m here to have fun, make friends, eat good food, and avoid any dips in my GPA!

Yonsei Changed My Life…

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Written by: Ki Moon, Foster School undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Korea

“Change your mind and it will change your life.” I changed my mind by choosing to study at the Yonsei University by applying through the Foster School of Business. Prior to my decision of going abroad, I relied heavily on the familiarity of my life; I was so afraid of the unfamiliar and often times said to myself that “I’ve never done that before, I’ve never been over there, and I’ve never hung out with these people.” However, I came to the realization that sometimes you need to go out of the comfort zone, and as cliché as that sounds, it’s very true.

On August 22nd of 2013, I checked into the SK Global House, which is one of the two international dorm buildings built for international and exchange students. I signed up for the single dorm because I read prior recommendations that it would give me space to quietly study. Also, you get your own bathroom, which I believe is a must. This was also the first time that I got the chance to dorm. Back at UW, I’m a daily commuter from the eastside area, so living at home was always part of my college experience. However, this was different and I enjoyed every dose of this part of the experience. For one, living by myself helped me to understand so much about myself. I found out that I’m much more capable of handling my responsibilities and chores. It’s just that I never had the chance to prove it or show it to anyone. One thing I’m really good at now is doing my laundry. Let me tell you, the first laundry experience, using the coin laundry system at the first floor of the SK Global House, was traumatizing. After washing and drying all of my cotton shirts on the high settings, I came back to my dorm and realized that majority of my large-sized cotton shirts turned into women’s x-small. I laughed about it and never did that again!

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The business building at Yonsei University

The one hard part about living on your own is the food. There is no meal plan when you choose to stay at the dorms. That means you need to figure out a way to crunch your appetite. Back home, this was like an automatic no-worry matter. Mom would always cook three healthy meals for me a day, but at Yonsei there were many times when I skipped my meals. Of course, there is McDelivery, which is a delivery service available at the McDonalds in Korea. I used that plenty of times – three o’clock in the morning McChicken and BigMacs will be unforgettable.

Now let me tell you about my first day in class. First of all, all of my business courses were taught in English. I had one professor who had a very strong accent but understanding him was no problem. Since I am fluent in Korean and am very familiar with the broken English that my parents speak, I could easily understand what the professor wanted to say. All courses, at least the ones that I was enrolled in, were pretty straightforward. You will have to do at least one lengthy group presentation (groups are either assigned to you or you get to pick your group members), take one midterm and one final (most are based on multiple choice format), and have to have good classroom participation (showing up to class). The coursework load is very minimal, which means you have a lot of free time after classes. Usually, this can be a good or bad thing. For me, I started to procrastinate leading up to my first midterm, and then I got the wake-up call. But don’t worry because the UW has prepared us so well to study and manage ourselves in any kind of academic setting.

Meeting new people and making new friends can be a challenge anywhere, and it was especially harder to do as an exchange student. Many exchange students felt the same. The biggest problem for this is because the exchange students live in a secluded part of the Yonsei campus. When class ends, all of the exchange students usually head back to that part of the campus. It won’t be easy making friends with students who are regular Yonsei attendees. The best recommendation which I came across is to sign-up for the extracurricular clubs provided and managed by the Yonsei students. This is done during the first couple weeks of school. I highly recommend this opportunity. Also, sign-up for the Mentors Club, which is designed to match one regular Yonsei student who will accompany you by eating lunch with you, studying with you, and familiarizing you with the Yonsei student life.

All in all, words can’t even express how much I enjoyed the study abroad experience. It’s hard to put all of the memorable and valuable pieces of this experience into such short blog post, but my time in Korea has been truly worthwhile.

Business in India

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Kiersa India

by Kiersa Sanders

Day 1 of our Self Employed Women Association (SEWA) visit involved meeting at SEWA headquarters, visiting two different garment worker communities, visiting a garment worker thread store, presenting our $2,000 donation to SEWA, and brainstorming solutions to attract more shoppers to the store. We ended the night at a traditional Guajarati restaurant for dinner.

At SEWA headquarters, we learned about why and how the group was formed. The organization’s main goal is to obtain full employment and self reliance for the women in the informal labor sector that it represents. From SEWA headquarters, we travelled to the thread store that our fundraising will support. It was a very small space but the shelves had a variety of different types of thread. We asked questions about the product, supplier, and customers to get a better idea of how the store could improve. My favorite part of the day was actually meeting the women that will be utilizing the thread store. Our group and about a dozen female seamstresses packed into two different sitting rooms and exchanged questions. We discovered that many of these women both worked nine-hour days and took care of the household duties. They earned 30-60 rupees per day or less than $1 US dollar.

They told us that girls have to start sewing at around eight or nine years old. Students often had to leave school to support the family income. In addition to this, even basic government school costs families at least $300 US dollars per year. Families that enrolled their children in school stood to lose money from lost hours at work as well as the tuition itself. This part of the visit was pretty disheartening and made me reflect on my own education. Growing up wasn’t all roses, but at least school was free. Performing well at school opened up opportunities for me to exceed what my mom had been able to accomplish financially. Because many of these women are at the whim of the garment companies that contract for their services, many families get stuck in a cycle because they have to depend on the children to bring in the necessary income. I’m thankful that I have had the opportunity to attend school and become eligible for different job opportunities.

There is a pretty stark contrast between SEWA Day 1 and SEWA Day 2. We began Day 2 at the Gandhi museum which was located where he lived for part of his life. I had no idea that Gandhi was born in Guajarati. The museum was extremely peaceful. As I walked through the exhibit I learned so much that I never knew about him. He studied law in England, took his first position in South Africa, where he experienced discrimination for the first time. Without Gandhi’s teachings, I wonder where I would be right now. Many of his philosophies inspired the peaceful strategies of the Civil Rights Movement that helped make it successful.

Culture Clash in China

Monday, October 14th, 2013

by Gabriel Heckt  

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When going abroad, what sometimes comes to mind are adventurous trips to incredible monuments and unforgettable locations and people, I think the story that really fits my study abroad experience is one that can be seen as slightly commonplace, but represents the day to day experience of living immersed in a civilization I was completely unused to.

My friends and I had taken a taxi down to the middle of the city to look for gifts we could get for our families. The place we went was known for its bargain prices and authentic merchandise, so we were excited to try to find things we had never seen in the U.S. However, as soon as we got there, we started to run into problems. The place was extremely crowded, unlike anything we had experienced back in Washington. There were thousands of people, so many that we couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go. Also, we couldn’t seem to find the place that we were trying to go, despite talking with several shopkeepers in Chinese. We always wound up at extremely pricey name brand shopping centers, the opposite of what we were trying to find!

As if to make matters worse, it suddenly started raining. This didn’t seem to be much of a problem to me. After all, I’m from Seattle, so there was no reason I should be worried about a little rain, right? I didn’t even bring an umbrella because it didn’t seem like it was going to rain that day. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This rain was nothing like even the heaviest rain I had ever experienced in Seattle. It came down in sheets, drenching in literally seconds. It was almost comical just how fast the streets cleared of the massive amounts of people. They seemed to know how to respond to the torrential downpour, but we had no clue. The rain was so heavy, that the streets started flooding, and police had to start blocking off intersections.

Now, not only had we not found our destination, but also we were completely soaked and were running out of options on how to get home. Had we been in Seattle, I’m positive we would have known how to respond instantly, and have been able to navigate our way in and out of an area. But we were in a completely unknown area, and had no knowledge of how to proceed in a situation like the one we were in. Completely by chance, we actually managed to find the shopping place we were looking for, but then we had to start the process of bargaining, which is full of subtleties and very difficult even with the decent grasp of Chinese we had. I spent around twenty minutes bargaining for a pair of shorts with a saleswoman because she wouldn’t give me even a slight discount. I was almost positive it was because I wasn’t Chinese, because I had seen Chinese people in other shops bargain to almost half the price of very similar goods. It was a pretty challenging, but also rewarding process when I finally got a small discount on what I wanted.

Trying to get back to the Sichuan University was another problem in and of itself. Because of the extreme rain, almost everyone was trying to catch a cab, and people kept moving in front of us to grab them, because unlike Seattle you have to be assertive and even appear somewhat “rude” to obtain something if there is a wait in China. Thankfully, we eventually found a very unsafe looking box motorcycle to take us back. We managed to negotiate a price and describe how to return to the University. Although we were drenched, freezing, and tired, we felt happy that we had managed somewhat successfully to navigate our way through some of China’s cultural differences that day.

Though every day wasn’t as hectic and confusing as the one above, almost every day was a learning experience, whether it was buying food or just asking for directions. Learning to adapt and fit into such a different culture through events like this was one of the largest parts of my study abroad experience, and that day is an excellent representation.

My time at Yonsei

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Written by: Agnes Kim

One of the best parts of going to Yonsei was the experience of getting to meet new people from all over the world. Yonsei’s student exchange system is truly a world-class exchange program; more than 40 nations were represented by the diverse student nationalities. The opportunity to meet people of so many different backgrounds and cultures was very eye opening.
Often it can be difficult to truly grasp that out there is a world, a world in which all types of people can be found and that, just as often, these people can be radically different than yourself. Many people spend their whole lives surrounded by familiar experiences, people, and settings that never truly challenge their lives. It was truly an eye-opening lesson to find that your local and personal experiences and stories are not things that can simply be assumed to be true–the lives of others of others are so radically different from your own, even as they are taken for granted just as lightly from their point of view. And maybe it was because everyone’s story was different from each other’s but rather than having these differences separate everyone, it ironically ended up being a common thread that everyone could share and relate to. Especially in today’s globalized world, to be forced to learn first-hand that differences are gaps to be bridged rather than ignored at the expense of finding yourself friendless and a loner is a pretty humbling and valuable lesson.

At the same time, it was strange to see that this experience doesn’t exactly translate back at home either. Just as my own personal experiences or views were difficult for other people from around the world to grasp fully, I’ve found that now my experiences abroad aren’t easily understood by friends and family who stayed home, who haven’t seen what I did as well.
When meeting people abroad, they at the very least have the benefit of knowing that a lack of communication went both ways. Yet it’s strange and interesting to find that back home, people listen to your story and because of your familiarity, friendship, or kinship believe or pretend to understand when in truth they don’t. I was in that position before this trip and now know that I didn’t understand then. It’s an odd sensation to come home feeling you’ve grown and changed so much after having learned that there’s a world out there so big it could crush you, yet it seems everything is exactly as I left it since I left. I guess you call that growing up.
However, I also did notice that, particularly at Yonsei, studying abroad can be and is what you make of it. Although there are so many opportunities to see new things, it’s just as easy to stay insulated and see nothing new at all. This was a problem highlighted by the fact that the dormitories and even the associated lecture halls for foreign and exchange students are all gathered and stuck on one corner of the Yonsei campus away from everything else, being secluded and separated.

It can be very tempting to do nothing but take English courses taught by English professors in a class with English students while living in an English housing complex and only make English friends who you only go out in English districts and areas with. Although there’s nothing wrong with that since making new friends and networking is always a great thing. Plenty of the other exchange students, especially those from systems such as the EAP-UC programs that intentionally put you in that environment, did exactly just that. But I think if you’re bothering to go to another country and are surrounded by a global environment, it’s short-sighted to not take advantage of the experience to see a bit of the world and I’m glad to have put myself out there and did things out of my comfort zone and gained valuable experiences that are difficult to come by. I would strongly urge anyone considering studying abroad to do the same.

One of the most interesting cultural differences that I was able to observe in Korea was the drinking culture. Korea was recently mentioned in online research articles about worldwide drinking habits as the nation with the highest alcohol consumption rate per capita in the world and my experience at Yonsei definitely showed me that side of Korean culture; it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that the capital of Seoul could easily steal the moniker of ‘the city that never sleeps’ from New York. The most fascinating thing about the drinking culture though was that it seemed to be so deeply tied to the social ladder and work environment. Alcohol serves not only as a rite of passage for newly graduated high school students (the legal age of consumption is 19) but as an engine of social cohesion and professional networking. Whether it is with groups of personal friends, student organizations, or work functions, there are nightly outings attached with the unspoken implication that your presence is required and alcohol must be consumed in order for you to be truly accepted into the fold.
This was both fascinating and baffling when in western culture alcohol is generally considered as simply being a social lubricant that isnt necessary for acceptance among your peers. Whether this is due to the Korean alcohol soju and rice wines being so inexpensive that they are unavoidable or because there is a separate underlying cultural reason I couldn’t tell. But I can attest to the culture shock that you can go through after witnessing a society that functions so normally despite having the level of nightly alcohol consumption and social outings.

Singapore: Looking Back

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Looking back on my time in Singapore, while my favorite thing may have been the traveling, I’m really happy I got to experience such a unique city and country. Singapore is growing and changing; skyscrapers were built and finished just while I was there. It’s modern feel, stylish restaurants and clubs, and fast-paced nature is very appealing, especially for global business.

The country itself is borderline utopian and highly regulated. No gum, no food or drink on public transportation, and no disturbing the peace. While it can sound intimidating from the outside, it isn’t on the inside. These regulations and strict policies have resulted in an extremely clean and safe country all around. My favorite thing to describe this is a quote I found on another student’s travel blog: “A 21 year old girl could find every dark alley in Singapore at 4 in the morning, and she would only be approached by a registered cab driver asking if she needed a ride home.” Not to say crime is nonexistent, but my friend left her iPad in the public library during finals week for 4 hours, came back, and it was exactly where she left it.

It can run high stress, and the culture can be seen as a little uptight at times, which is really the only large downside. However, being a foreigner in Singapore is great. The exchange program at NUS is fantastic and you’ll be able to make plenty of friends from around the world and alleviate the stress with a little world traveling and clubbing on the tops of skyscrapers. (1-Altitude is my favorite) The most important part of any study abroad trip is the experience, and you would be hard-pressed to find another country where you can experience this much of the world in one city.

School in Singapore

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

While traveling is a big part of experiencing Singapore and Southeast Asia, you do have to go to school too. I actually learned a lot, and I’m not just talking about course material. Being that Singapore is an English-speaking nation in Asia (one of the few, if not the only), you have a very interesting look into the culture of Asia. Singapore brings in people from all over Asia and the world to study and do business, and so you see a lot of world beliefs, ideals, and societal facets mix. It was a unique experience to learn and test in a different culture’s ideals. I learned a lot about Eastern culture and how they look at education and the world and it has changed how I view a lot of the world and my own work.
The bottom line is, for a Westerner, this is going to be a little hard. It’s not that the material is over-the-top difficult; it’s just a different way of learning and a different way of thinking. (I wrote a paper on it, you can see it at my travel blog: cmsingapore.blogspot.com)

In order to take advantage of the traveling and in order to really experience the country and the region, I recommend you take 3 classes and do pass/fail if you can. If you’re a marketing student, Game Theory is an interesting class that really captures the formulaic thinking that I found common in the culture. Also if you have room, take a class specific to Asia, like Asian Markets.

 

The Singapore Experience

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Singapore is sometimes referred to as the West’s gateway to Southeast Asia, and that has definitely held true with my experience of the small country. While being a fast growing utopian-style metropolis, Singapore is also a hub and launch pad for exploring the entire region, Myanmar to Indonesia. Traveling is fairly straight forward, and if you want to see a lot of this region I definitely recommend the program to study abroad at the National University of Singapore. They take in a decent number of exchange students from around the world, and it’s very easy to grab a group and travel to Thailand for the weekend (or the week, it’s a great place). I recommend that you make a group with some other exchange students that you meet at the first mixers or beach parties, they will all want to travel too and having a travel group is very important for going into a foreign country. Plus, having a group of people from all over the world is an amazing opportunity and leads to some great conversations and friendships through your travels.

That being said about groups, Singapore is safe to traverse and explore on your own, and solo travel adventures aren’t unheard of. I went to Bali on my own (fairly safe place to go by yourself in the region) and it was amazing. I can’t say enough about traveling with this exchange opportunity. From climbing a volcano in Indonesia to kayaking through island caves in Southern Thailand, I got to see and experience so much more than I had anticipated. The possibilities to have a trip of a lifetime are endless here, so take a few!